(PART 787)


There’s no consensus, even among LNers, on when the first shot was fired. Respectfully, here are my “Seven reasons why the first shot did not occur at or near Zapruder frame Z160.”

Reason One: The Zapruder Film Itself.

Do you remember your reaction the first time you heard a live rifle round being fired? You flinched. Some of you jumped right out of your skin. You were startled at how unexpectedly loud it was, even if you were prepared for it.

There are at least 63 people in Z160, not including anyone in the motorcade or escort. They were not expecting any such explosion. Nearly all would have flinched in unison. Many would have instinctively turned toward the source of the rifle fire, the sixth floor of the TSBD. Everyone lining Elm Street, most evidently the women in the foreground, would have reacted.

If Gov. Connally and Rosemary Willis responded to a rifle blast, why did no one else in these frames as much as bat an eye? The faster Connally turned to his right, the more certain others would have also shown startle movements. Yet there were none.

The Governor turned to his right to look at the crowd for the hundredth time during the motorcade, and 10-year-old Rosemary Willis turned in response to being called by her father, Phil.


But an important point to consider regarding the first shot is this ---

A large percentage of the witnesses thought the first sound they heard (which was undoubtedly the first GUNSHOT) sounded more like a firecracker than a gunshot and didn't sound as loud as a gunshot.

So, should a "firecracker"-like sound have resulted in all of the witnesses jumping out of their skins (in unison)? I wouldn't expect to see anything like that.

Plus: Can you show me any distinct "startle reactions" from anyone in the limousine or anywhere in Dealey Plaza at any point in time in the Zapruder Film? The closest you can possibly get would be Roy Kellerman's lurching forward right after the head shot at Z313. But even that reaction wouldn't be what I'd call a typical "startle" type reaction (with a startle reaction invariably being an involuntary "flinch" or "jerky" motion of the shoulders).

Kellerman is reacting just after Z313, yes. But he's ducking down, IMO. He's not exhibiting a typical "flinch" type of startle reaction. (Plus, he's also undoubtedly hearing the bullet fragments from the head shot clanking against the chrome and windshield, which is probably resulting in Kellerman's accentuated "ducking" movements.)

But who ELSE in the whole Plaza could be considered to be exhibiting "startle" reactions at ANY time during the whole shooting timeline as seen in Zapruder's home movie, Ed? Anyone at all? If so, please point them out, because I sure haven't seen any definitive signs of any startle reactions by anybody. And we KNOW that loud rifle shots WERE being fired at the President. Ergo, in my opinion, a lack of startle reactions throughout the ENTIRE film really proves....nothing.

I think the weight of the overall testimony indicates the first shot (which was the shot that missed everyone in the Presidential limousine) occurred at just about Zapruder frame number 160.

JFK-Archives.blogspot.com/The Shot That Missed


It's amazing that Virgie Rachley, who was right beneath the sniper's window, never thought that the shots came from right above her.

In [an] interview in the TSBD with newsman Kent Biffle, she says one of the shots sounded like a firecracker. I'll have to check if she says first shot.

[FBI interview with Rachley.]


Both Bill and Gayle Newman, in every interview they ever gave after the assassination that I have ever heard or seen, said the FIRST shot sounded like a "firecracker", including their WFAA-TV interview on 11/22/63 [below], which took place just 20 to 25 minutes after the shooting.

Pierce Allman, another Dealey Plaza witness, also thought the FIRST shot was a firecracker:

And many witnesses also claimed the first shot sounded like a motorcycle backfire, Mal Couch included:

Has anybody done any studies on whether a "firecracker" and/or a "motorcycle backfire" sound should result in witnesses jumping out of their skins when they hear such sounds? ~shrug~

Of course, the LOCATION of both the witness and the source of the sound would play a big part in whether a witness would exhibit any startle reaction or not.


Here's an interesting little item. I'm not claiming it proves anything, of course.

From Henry S. Bloomgarden, THE GUN: A “BIOGRAPHY” OF THE GUN THAT KILLED JOHN F. KENNEDY (New York: Grossman Publishers, 1975), pp. 5-7:


Sandy Richardson . . . lay on the Italian hillside thinking he was dead, then gradually realized he was only wounded. His helmet had been taken off and his scalp creased by a German sniper’s bullet. His head bleeding, he was running down the slope, seeking safety, and had kicked a land mine with his foot. It had tossed him in the air with its explosive force. It should have blown him to shreds. If he hadn’t been stumbling downhill, falling forward, it might have. Instead, he had a broken back and a broken leg.

Unable to move, he lay there while another GI kept calling for a medic. At last, after eight hours, some “very beautiful guys” came along with a jeep, placed him on a stretcher, lifted him off the hillside to the hood, and took him to a field hospital.

During some of the eight long hours, Private Sandy Richardson heard the sound of German 88s, 120 mortars, American M1s, and Mannlicher-Carcanos. The Carcano was used by Italian partisans fighting there, alongside the Americans, in the mountains near Pian d’Ontani, in the province of Pistoia, far north of Rome. This was the third time Richardson had been conscious of the peculiar sound of these rifles.

Weeks earlier he had seen other partisans unearth a cache of Carcanos and decide that day to settle old scores. Collaborators were taken from their homes and shot.

Then there was the time the partisans, armed with Carcanos, accompanied Richardson’s outfit on patrol, early one morning, before first light. Richardson heard the sound of the M1s shooting at the Germans, “. . . a loud ‘chunk,’ solid, definitely there.” In contrast, the Carcano, with its smaller bore and seemingly underpowered cartridges, sounded “much like a firecracker. . . . I couldn’t believe they were serious. . . . I thought the bullets would poop out and drop harmlessly . . . no trajectory . . . it sounded like the Fourth of July.”

Three times, then, he had heard the Carcanos. The day the collaborators were shot. The morning on patrol with the partisans. And the day -- April 9, 1945 -- he was shot and blown up and lay on the hillside while the battle went on. Fifteen and more years later he still could hear the firecracker sound.

On November 22, 1963, Sandy Richardson, then vice-president of a publishing company, was having lunch with Richard Johnston, executive editor of Sports Illustrated, in the restaurant atop the Time-Life Building in New York City. The waiter came to the table, quietly, almost apologetically, very unsure: “Mr. Johnston, I beg your pardon. The President has been assassinated.”


“In Dallas.”

They left the table and went to Johnston’s office. In the hours that followed, Richardson was stunned not just by the news, but by reports from people on the scene. Some believed the shots had been automobile backfire. Some said they had sounded like firecrackers. And Richardson, hearing this, remembered, and thought the shots must have come from a Mannlicher-Carcano, “It was the first thing that came into my mind . . . across all the years . . . a Carcano.”



That's a very interesting book excerpt, Dave.



I don't see why anyone would claim that the observation about Oswald having to alter his shooting posture between the shots positively means that Oswald could NOT have accomplished the assassination on his own from that sixth-floor sniper's perch.

Even if Oswald had to stand up (instead of sitting or squatting) to fire his first shot at Kennedy's car around Z160, so what? We still have solid indications that THREE shots from Oswald's Mannlicher-Carcano rifle WERE fired from that very same sixth-floor location in the southeast corner. The THREE spent bullet shells on the floor [CE510] pretty much seal the deal on that point. Plus the huge percentage of witnesses who heard exactly THREE SHOTS fired during the assassination.


Oswald would have had to change his position for the first shot only if he were aiming at the limousine, which I don't believe he was. He was aiming downrange to zero his weapon with the first shot. Changing his position would not have been necessary.


That's an interesting theory indeed. And nobody can prove it's incorrect. But it would have been a mighty risky thing for Oswald to do---firing one wild shot, not intended to hit anybody, just to "zero in" his scope. He would have been drawing attention to his sniper's location with a shot that wasn't even designed to accomplish Oswald's ultimate goal, which was to kill the President.

At the same time, however, the whole proposition of trying to assassinate a U.S. President is a tad bit "risky" too. So I probably won't win this argument by merely saying it was "too risky" for Oswald to waste Shot #1 with a wild, stray shot. :)

But I'm still a bit dubious about accepting your first-shot theory as fact, Ed. I certainly can't disprove it, however. And I doubt anyone else can either.


Ah, but David, it was anything but a "wild, stray shot." Oswald carefully aimed at a still target, took note of where it hit relative to the crosshairs, adjusted the windage and elevation screws and operated the bolt. Less than ten seconds. Could have been ten minutes; nobody reacted.


Wait a second, Ed. Please clarify something for me....

Are you actually suggesting that Oswald possibly fired his first "zeroing in" shot BEFORE the President's car even entered Dealey Plaza? ("Ten minutes"?) It kind of sounds like you are advocating that possibility.

If so, I think that would have been way too "risky" for Oswald to do. It would have been crazy, in fact. He would have been advertising the fact that a person with a gun was in the TSBD many minutes before JFK ever even entered the kill zone. Plenty of time for someone to get up there to the sixth floor to investigate and to prevent the assassination.

Is that really what you think might have happened, Ed? Or did I misinterpret your "could have been 10 minutes" remark?

But even your "less than ten seconds" comment is not reasonable, IMO. Oswald wouldn't have had time to re-adjust the scope settings if he had fired a "zeroing in" shot after JFK's car had turned onto Elm Street. How could he possibly have thought he would have had time to adjust the scope in such a short space of time?


If I were forced at gunpoint to make a final determination on what I think happened with respect to the topic of whether or not Lee Harvey Oswald utilized the four-power telescope on his Mannlicher-Carcano rifle on 11/22/63, I'd say it probably happened this way....

Oswald fired his first shot through the scope at approximately Zapruder frame 160. After firing that shot, Oswald realized that it didn't hit a darn thing. He then might have realized that the scope was misaligned and needed adjusting before he could use it again effectively. Realizing also that he would, of course, have no time to perform any adjustments on the scope, he quickly switched to the open iron sights at the end of the rifle barrel for his last two shots (at Z224 and Z313).

The above scenario is the one that makes the most sense to me.


David, thanks for the opportunity to clarify my comment.

No, I don't believe he zeroed his firearm 10 minutes before. That was just my way of pointing out that no security personnel ever reacted to the first shot. Oswald's timing was good enough if not perfect. He fired the first shot just as the limo was turning from Houston onto Elm or in the process of completing its turn. This is when career-trained witnesses said it was fired (13 of whom are quoted in The Final Truth).

More importantly, it's also where the FBI spliced the 7 frames from the Towner film, which is exactly, to the frame, when a jiggle would have occurred--a jiggle which would disprove the FBI's contention of a late first shot. (It took almost ten years for this splice to be noticed.) The time to the second shot is 9.5 seconds, time enough.

I like your ideas about Oswald using the iron sights for shots 2 and 3 (and I agree with your timing), but IMO he used the not-yet-damaged scope for all three shots.


Okay, Ed. Thanks for the clarification.

David Von Pein
August 28, 2014
June 13, 2015
June 17-20, 2015